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functional or decorative? (was: re: collecting ceramics advice)

updated fri 1 mar 02


Dave Gayman on thu 28 feb 02

This feels like a totally different sort of question -- I'd leave it up to
the collector whether to acquire decorative or useful.

There's a middle ground: utilitarian ware gathered for display only. Many
a museum is chock-full of beautiful, once-utilitarian wares that are richly
glazed with deadly lead. Hopefully, no-one takes them out of their cases
to serve wine, orange juice, or oil-and-vinegared salads...

The ontological reality of things made of clay is that eventually they will
break. Moravian (and German) potters used to sell plates with the German
equivalent of this around the rim: "Potters laugh when plates are
broken." Collectors of previous centuries used to hire craftsmen to drill
mating holes in the pieces of broken ware, figurines, and the like, then
staple them together with iron and even silver or gold wire.

There's evidence that in some societies this was simply taken as indicative
of the great value placed on the piece -- today on Antiques Roadshow in our
gotta-be-perfect machine age, stapled clay pieces are denigrated and
devalued and "condition is everything."


At 07:24 PM 2/27/2002 -0500, you wrote:
>Your point about durability. Do you feel that it would be ok to recommend
>to anyone beginning to collect to focus on functional or decorative? If
>someone is beginning to collect functional work they would need to be
>up-to-date on toxicity and glazes. Whereas if they went to decorative the
>glaze tox. would be less important. What do you think?